‘Eve-teasing’: meaning and origin

In Indian English:
– the noun Eve-teasing, also eve-teasing, is a euphemistic appellation for verbal or physical sexual harassment of a woman by a man in a public place;
– the noun Eve-teaser, also eve-teaser, is a euphemistic appellation for a man who, verbally or physically, sexually harasses a woman in a public place.

These nouns refer to Eve, the name of the first woman in the biblical account of the creation of the world, who is seen as a temptress.

The earliest occurrences of the nouns Eve-teasing and Eve-teaser that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From an Associated-Press report from New Delhi, India, published in several U.S. newspapers on Friday 21st March 1958—for example in the Asbury Park Evening Press (Asbury Park, New Jersey):

Women Lose Round in Battle Of Sexes in Indian Parliament

New Delhi, India (AP)—The battle of the sexes has had a round in the upper house of India’s parliament. Woman lost.
Mrs. Savitri Nigam, member of the upper house and the ruling Congress Party, introduced a bill providing a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of 10,000 rupees ($2,100) for any man guilty of molesting a woman.
The bill defined molesting as “indecent behavior, insult, assault, kidnaping, abduction, procuration, and importation or wrongful confinement of a woman for an immoral purpose.”
Mrs. Nigam emphasized the “indecent behavior and insult” part of the bill. There are too many young men loitering on streets and passing remarks as women pass by, she said, and unless “Eve-teasing” is stopped, India will become a land of hoodlums. Gentlemen will be found only in museums.
P. N. Sapru, ordinarily a staunch advocate of women’s rights, drew male cheers and female blushes by declaring immoral behavior is “two-way traffic,” that women can seduce men as well as the other way around. Present laws suffice, he said.
Mrs. Violet Alva, deputy minister of home affairs, joined the side of manhood, asserting it would be “monstrous to suggest 15 years’ imprisonment for a misbehaving male.”
She warned that if the bill passed, “Some of the honorable members (of the upper house) might find themselves in trouble.”
There are 16 women among the 230 members of the upper house, but the bill won only one vote—from Mrs. Nigam.

2-: From The Times (London, England) of Friday 22nd April 1960:


Delhi, April 21
One aspect of the problem of student indiscipline which is plaguing university authorities in India has been the bullying and harassment of girl students in the few coeducational institutions—a pastime so common that it has been given the name of “Eve-teasing”. In one incident at Delhi University recently a young man slapped and manhandled a girl in the students’ canteen. Questions were asked about this case in the Upper House yesterday.
A Congress member asked Mr. Pant, the Minister of Home Affairs, if the Government had considered more rigorous measures to protect girl students from molestation. The Minister replied that steps had already been taken to encourage girls to come forward with complaints of misbehaviour to the police and the police had been asked to see that the cases were not given publicity. When such cases came to the court the proceedings were in private.
Eve-teasing” is not, apparently, just the oafish high spirits or illwill of a handful of male students but is rather a symptom of the strong resentment which many students feel against women in the universities.
Apologists for the youths suggest that “the modern ways of dressing and making up by young women” are responsible for the antipathy, and it does seem that many “Eve-teasers” are acting from one kind of moral disapproval. Many students come from rural areas where the thought of educating women has hardly penetrated and they react with violence when they meet girls as students at their own level.
The young man who slapped the girl at Delhi University has been rusticated for three years, but his colleagues are already beginning to agitate against the severity of the punishment and it will be by no means surprising if eventually the university authorities yield to their persuasion or coercion and reduce or lift the penalty.

3-: From Time (New York City, New York) of Monday 12th September 1960:


Independent India is discovering social problems undreamed of in Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy. As the caste system and the traditional Hindu family begin to crumble, the barrier between the sexes in India is no longer the formidable fence it used to be. Last week in Agra—where India’s two most famous lovers, the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan and his queen, lie buried under the Taj Mahal—the Indian Youth Association held a solemn seminar about a new kind of problem: the sidewalk dalliance that Indian youth calls “Eve-teasing.”
“The minds of today’s young men are a madhouse,” wailed Chief Minister Sampurnanand of Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s foremost amateur astrologers. No longer, he complained, can “every young woman walk the streets with the confidence that every young man she meets will be as a brother to her.” An indignant college professor joined in. “Individually as well as in groups,” he complained, his students “discuss the proportions of maidens, their adipose tissues and their coy looks.”
Some of the assembled savants were inclined to blame the new looseness on the movies (“That unmitigated evil”) and cigarette smoking: “It is a biological fact that habitual smoking stimulates the oral erotic zone and the mind starts wandering.” One speaker described a survey he had made indicating that 36.9% of India’s people suffer from boredom, 49.7% from blighted hopes, 26.7% from emotional depression, 6.4% from sexual frustration, 49.9% from “a polluted and unwholesome atmosphere.” A girl from New Delhi won the biggest cheer of the day with her complaint that “it’s not her age, her beauty or her other qualifications” that win a young woman a job, “but just how far she is prepared to accommodate her boss.”
But even if her boss doesn’t bother her, agreed the assemblage, an Indian girl’s modesty in the big city is under constant assault nowadays—if only visually and verbally. “We get 50 screams for help every week from girls whom men are trying to pick up,” says a Bombay cop. Last week, 17 teen-agers were rounded up in Allahabad for talking to girls in the street, though 14 were merely reprimanded and sent home. In Lucknow, one harried police inspector prefers more direct action: “I just take them to the lockup and thrash them.”
Inevitably, one pale male at last week’s seminar countered with a charge of Adam-teasing. Complaining of the girls’ gauzy saris, low-cut cholis (blouses) and flimsy salwar (trousers), a student cried: “There is always too much visible.” Conceded a Lucknow University coed: “At times we also tease boys.” And for sheer devilish ingenuity, few Eve-teasers could match the New Delhi girl who telephones males at random, starting conversations that are hard for many an innocent husband to explain. If a wife answers, this Adam-teaser hangs up with the shocked cry: “He never told me he was married!”
After all the charges and countercharges had been debated, the seminar wound up earnestly deploring “a loss of respect for women among young men,” and calling on students to form “squads to apprehend and check” disrespectful behavior. All but lost in the righteous furor was the quietly reasonable voice of one male student. “Tell me,” he asked, “is there any country in the world where the boys do not indulge in this game?”

4-: From the column On The Town, by Tom Sawyer, published in the Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) of Tuesday 13th September 1960:

The Same Story In Any Language

The wolf whistle is an old familiar call in the U. S. Like so many American customs, it seems to have spread. Even as far east as India. According to Time Magazine, they have a different word for it. It’s called Eve-Teasing.
A Bombay cop says, “We get 50 screams for help every week from girls whom men are trying to pick up. Last week, 17 teenagers were rounded up in Allahabad for talking to girls in the street.”
This is a social problem undreamed of in Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy.
Being a man, I am inclined to believe that Adam-teasing has been going on in India for a long time behind veils. And now the girls, overwhelmingly outnumbering their male mates, are rebelling. Casting aside their veils with the ancient caste system, they are in hopes that some young man will be stimulated to act as more than just a brother. How about it, girls? It does take two to play the game.

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